Nostalgia Lane: Final Fantasies

I may have mentioned on this blog that we didn’t have a regular NES when we were growing up — not for a lack of wanting, believe you me.  We had to wait for the SNES, which was certainly worth it, but that meant that my brothers and I were in a constant state of envy over our friends’ consoles and enraptured with them every time we could go over and play.

It was at a friend’s house that I first was exposed to Final Fantasy.  We were having lunch and the TV wasn’t on, but I still sat down and poured through the Final Fantasy I manual like a parched man at a drinking fountain.  Even by 1987 RPGs were incredibly captivating to me, and I loved the notion that you could make up your own party mix for the game, a party who would “grow up” at a certain point and evolve into a better class.

Oddly enough, that manual was it for me and Final Fantasy until 1997, when I purchased the PlayStation and a couple “killer apps” to go with it — Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 2.  Now, most gamers I know have their Final Fantasy preference, which usually corresponds to the first FF game they played, so you’ll understand that I’ve always carried a torch for FFVII.  It was an incredible experience back in ’97 — a very cinematic RPG with lots of depth, a huge cast of characters, and hundreds of hours’ worth of gameplay.  Yes, it looks laughably quaint and slow today, but when I first got it?  I played it for three days straight.  Seriously, I skipped work and everything.

Little did I know that Final Fantasy VII would become such a gaming touchstone, what with Aeris’ death, Sephiroth, Cloud’s hairstyle, limit breaks, and all the rest.  Back then it was simply a fun game and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Two years later I had graduated college and moved to Colorado.  It was then that Square released Final Fantasy VIII, a title that we were all waiting for like crazy.  They promised more realistic proportions on the characters and a more scifi world, although it soon became apparent that it was a far cry from 7.  The Junction system was absolutely stupid, although there are a few masochists who claimed to love it.  I also really hated the sour protagonist — and Square’s penchant for the brooding hero type — and so it became a forgettable experience.

The next year I moved to my current home of Detroit and picked up Final Fantasy IX.  Along with Chrono Cross, this represented the glorious peak of PlayStation RPG goodness for me.  FF9 was a tribute of sorts to the entire FF franchise, and I genuinely enjoyed the upbeat tone, the colorful look, and the easier-to-understand gameplay.

With the next installment, Square moved to the PlayStation 2, the last console I ever purchased (we’re not counting the Wii because, really, it’s a party trick, not a gaming console).  I made the jump as well, although the PS2 never really caught on with me as much as the PS — probably because computer gaming just was more fun in 2001.  While not a bad game, per se, Final Fantasy X felt like it was more about the looks than the story (which was weirdly vague and anticlimactic) or gameplay.

It was here that I lost my love for the series.  There’s a lot to be said in favor of Final Fantasy as a historical franchise, but in my opinion the company never really grew up as fast as the rest of the genre.  Turn-based combat got old, random encounters were annoying, linear gameplay felt confined, and the stories felt so confined to weird Japanese conventions that ultimately baffled me.

While I did dip my toes into Final Fantasy XI — it was not for me, I quickly decided — that was it between me and Final Fantasy.  I haven’t felt the pull back for 12, 13 or 14, and while it’s not for me any more, I’m not going to badmouth games I haven’t played.  It just feels as though I moved on and FF stayed still.

Also?  Cloud is a really silly name.  I can admit that now.

5 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: Final Fantasies

  1. ran93r April 27, 2011 / 8:17 am

    12 is by far my choice if I had to pick one to be buried with, rent a copy, it’s the reason I still have a PS2.

  2. thade April 27, 2011 / 8:35 am

    Cecil, Rosa, Kain, and Rydia will always have a special place in my heart.

  3. biophazer242 April 27, 2011 / 8:49 am

    Great trip down memory lane, but I got sidetracked when you mentioned you live in Detroit.

    If you have done it before sorry for asking, but have you had a picture taken at the Robocop statue?!?!

  4. Yeebo April 28, 2011 / 1:26 pm

    I thought the final fantasies IV-X were fantastic. FF X-v2 sucked (FFX…girrl power edition), never played XI (an MMO for sadists from all I read), and XII was pretty good, but I never quite made it to the end.

    I’m one of those “sadists” that actually liked the junction system in VIII. It made you explore the world to get the best abilities to link up to your guys, and it made you happy and excited every time you encountered a new monster type (“will it have an awesome new spell?”). VIII also had the best card mini-game of any of the FFs. The card game in IX was especially bad, even after reading FAQs it made little sense to me.

    Overall if I had to rank them VIII would probably be my second favorite, despite Squall being a brooding dick and the interminable summoning animations. The depth of the side quests and mini-games are what really hooked me in. My overall favorite would have to be VI, however, for having one of the most stunning plots of any game I’ve ever played.

  5. Shadow April 28, 2011 / 4:13 pm

    FFVII is hands down the best of the series, and I started playing them with the first one at a friends place in their renovated basement. FFII (American) was the first of the series that I owned myself, and was years after my first exposure to FFI – the realization that cures hurt undead was a huge turning point for me in that game.

    I never finished FFX or anything beyond it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s